And Then There Was One: Talking with Spring Awakening's Blake Bashoff
The national tour of the Broadway smash-hit Spring Awakening came roaring into Toronto March 17th at the Canon Theatre, as part of Mirvish's current season. The 2007 Tony Award winner for Best Musical, Spring Awakening tells the story of a group of adolescents in 19th century Germany who are struggling with coming of age in an oppressive society.
It's a unique musical experience, one that touches on all sorts of issues that you wouldn't normally expect to come across on stage. Everything from pre-marital sex, abortion, rape and suicide, the material is heavy but handled remarkably well by a young and extremely talented cast.
At the heart of the show is a character named Moritz Stiefel, a young man struggling to come to terms with his awakening sexuality while also dealing with a difficult family and the demands of school and life in general. Your heart feels for the character and he brings you into the story and helps you really understand and feel the angst he is suffering. This is due to the fantastic portrayal by Blake Bashoff, who also played the role on Broadway after Tony Award Winner John Gallagher Jr. left the show. Mr. Bashoff brings great depth and maturity to the role, and has a fantastic voice. He was kind enough to sit down with BWW to answer a few questions about life on tour, as well as what he thinks of his first time performing in Toronto:
First of all I would like to welcome you to Toronto and say that I hope that you are enjoying your time here. How are you liking your visit so far?
It's great! It's an amazing city and a combination of all the best cities we have been to, I'm having a great time.
Is this your first time visiting Canada?
I was in and out to promote the tour as part of the upcoming Mirvish season, but that was just for a day for business. This is the first time I've been able to stay here.
After performing the role on Broadway, how does being in the touring production differ from the Broadway production?
The story is obviously still the same, but getting to work with new actors brings new challenges and energy and dynamics. It's a different cast so that changes things. One thing with touring versus the Broadway production is that the constantly changing cities helps keep things alive and the new audiences bring new responses.
One thing that seems to have really changed with the tour production is the size of the theatres you perform in. New York's Eugene O'Neill theatre held just over 1,000 people, whereas the Canon Theatre (the venue for the Toronto tour stop) holds over 2200. Have you found that there are any particular benefits or challenges to performing in larger houses?
Not entirely, a little bit, but the great thing is that we are a very intimate show and we find if we keep the show our show the audience comes to us. The on-stage seating helps with the intimacy and community. I haven't felt swallowed up in gigantic houses, it can be a bit more challenging but it reads well. The material is so great that it brings the audience in, even in larger venues.
Toronto is one of the longer engagements on the tour, do you enjoy being able to spend longer in the city?
Absolutely, although it would be a different response if I didn't like the city. I love getting to explore different districts and shops, and this is a great city with a lot to see. I also really liked LA because that is home for me and we spent a long time there, and San Francisco was great as well.
Have you found that the Canadian fans are much different from those you met either on Broadway or on other stops on the tour?
Not significantly different, they are very polite and a bit more reserved in their verbal responses. It is still a great audience and house but sometimes the responses just seem a little more polite although it seems like the audience is still enjoying the show. Maybe it's just a Canadian thing, but they seem less star-struck which might be the mentality but it's a good thing to show that respect for the artists and their work.
You have mentioned before that you really enjoy being able to explore the city and also museums in particular, have you had the opportunity to visit the Royal Ontario Museum or any other interesting sites since you have been in Toronto?